Cubs win 7-5 to take the series in San Diego.
The photo reel for this feature is starting to look like a Willson Contreras slide show. The Cubs catcher is scalding hot right now. He’s now notched three Superhero awards over the last five games and “settled” for the Hero the other two games. What does that look like in familiar numbers? He’s got an absurd line of .550/.654/.950 (wRC+ 333) over that stretch. I said it yesterday and I’ll double down and say it again: Willson has been the best catcher in baseball over the first roughly 20 percent of the season.
This was the first series since the opener that feels like a puzzle piece that doesn’t “fit” the equation. The Cubs have been largely outclassed facing a variety of the better teams in the league. They hung in against the Rockies who do not appear to be one of those better teams. But there are now two series victories, one over the Brewers in the opening series and now this one in San Diego. The question becomes, is there a little bit of a corner turn going on right now? Or is this just some baseball randomness?
I get catching a team at the wrong time for them or just the right time for you. This certainly doesn’t seem like the latter. The Cubs were coming off of being completely outclassed at home by the Dodgers and have had a rash of recent injuries and covid related problems. By all regards they should be reeling. Instead, they took two out of three games against a team that is expected to compete in the NL. Just odd.
Let’s look at three positives from a wild game.
- Rafael Ortega had two hits to complete a very nice series in San Diego. With Michael Hermosillo not producing and then being injured, Ortega has gotten more steady playing time and shows signs of emerging from his early season doldrums.
- Patrick Wisdom also had two more hits. He drove in one and scored one. With strong third base defense, Wisdom is producing positive value.
- Rowan Wick. I’m usually going to favor clean innings or something a starter did in this space. But Rowan closed this one out, recording the final six batters and notching a save. I can forgive him taking eight batters to do so. In 11 games now, Wick has thrown 11⅔ innings with a 0.77 ERA (FIP 2.01). He boasts a 28 percent K rate and a 41.9 percent GB rate. When he was at his best in 2019, that GB rate was actually quite a bit higher. So this is, so far at least, a little different version of Wick. Let’s hope it remains an effective one.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Wednesday’s game.
Game 30, May 11: Cubs 7 at Padres 5 (11-19)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.226). 2-3, HR, BB, 3R, RBI
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.212). 2-4, RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Frank Schwindel (.209). 2-4, 2B, 2RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Mychal Givens (-.305). IP (6 batters), 2H, 2R, 2K, HBP
- Goat: Ildemaro Vargas (-.103). 0-3, K, DP
- Kid: Keegan Thompson (-.051). 4IP (18 batters), 5H, 2BB, 2R, K, HBP
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Luke Voit squared off against Mychal Givens with the Cubs nursing a one run lead. Voit took Givens deep and tied the game. (.260)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth inning, Frank Schwindel faced Padres starter Nick Martinez. The game was tied at two. Schwindel doubled and two runs scored to give the Cubs a lead. (.244)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- Ian Happ +12
- Alfonso Rivas +11
- Willson Contreras +9.5
- Frank Schwindel -7
- Jason Heyward/Yan Gomes -9
Up Next: The Cubs get an off day on Thursday and then begin a three-game set in Arizona on Friday. Drew Smyly (1-3, 3.04) should be on track to start Friday’s game. Drew has pitched better than a 1-3 record would suggest. He’s scheduled to oppose our old pal Zach Davies (1-1, 3.34). Zach appears to be doing a bit better with the change in scenery.